He Did What?Posted:Dec 19th, 2016 2:47 pm
I missed the play of the game.
It was one of those Sundays. I watched the first half on my phone, while simultaneously watching my sixth grader, Dylan, play in a basketball tournament. Watched the second half at home, but had to get back to Chanhassen High School for other son Jackson's championship game at 3:30.
Now it's about 3:10 and the Packers faced 3rd and 11 and Lane Taylor was lying on his stomach, injured. Wasn't sure how long that would take so I decided to jump in the car and listen to Wayne describe overtime on my way to Chan.
I start up the car and Wayne yells, 'and out trots Mason Crosby to line up for the game winner.' WTF? Vintage Rodgers. Vintage Nelson. Vintage McCarthy on the play call. We could probably count on both hands the number of dropped passes we witnessed on this brutally cold day, most from Davante Adams but also a few by Nelson. A 60-yard bomb down the middle of the field--Nelson's longest reception of the season--certainly didn't seem to be in the cards.
It erased the not so distant memory of the Pack's 17-point fourth quarter lead that had evaporated in a flurry of Matt Barkley to Alshon Jeffery passes. An aside, Bears nation will be all onboard for a new quarterback next season. Barkley has earned a chance to compete for the job with his play over the last month.
The fourth quarter meltdown looked a lot like the play we watched in November. Conservative play calling on offense and a horrid defense, led by a complete lack of pass rush and lousy coverage and tackling in the secondary. Without Nick Perry and with a banged up Clay Matthews, the Pack doesn't seem to be able to get after the quarterback. That needs to change, or dreams of a lengthy post-season run will be just that: dreams.
Leading up to the dramatic finish, of course, was the real story of the day: the dynamic, Bo Jackson-like running of Ty Montgomery, who busted tackles and ran like a natural running back and a damn good one at that. 16 carries for 162 yards, most of those in the first half. Unreal. And Christine Michael's 42 yard touchdown run in the third quarter was just as electrifying. What do you know? Suddenly the Packers can run the ball. That could change everything down the stretch.
It was just four weeks ago that I printed my obituary for the Packers, as they sat at 4-6, losers of four straight. It appears they were only mostly dead. Rodgers' 'run the table' comment seemed ridiculous in light of the team's play and effort on the field. But we've learned to listen to him when he makes these statements.
And now here the Packers sit, the hottest team in the NFC, and for the first time all season, firmly in control of their own destiny. Win out and they win the North and earn their eighth straight trip to the playoffs. Technically, they could lose to the Vikes and still win the division, provided the Lions lose in Dallas next Monday night (but after Minnesota's meltdown against the Colts, their seventh loss in nine games, it's hard to take them too seriously right now).
The biggest concern is the health of Rodgers, who gutted out his calf injury in the cold on Sunday, but was practically immobile. A short week won't help, though it appears it will be a balmy 30 degrees on Saturday, which should help. Hopefully he'll get Randall Cobb back to add to his arsenal, which included a productive Jared Cook (six for 85) on a day when Adams couldn't handle the conditions. The new found running game needs to keep on rolling, to take much of the pressure off #12.
Forgetting the big picture for a second, let's just enjoy yet another win over the Bears in Chicago, a win that finally tied the all-time series for the first time since 1933. Rodgers' bomb to Nelson is merely the latest in a long line of late game heroics (remember the fourth down TD to Randall Cobb a couple years back? Of course you do). Watching his brilliance week in and week out, year after year, has spoiled us all.
So now we get set for a Christmas Eve afternoon game against the Purple. If the Pack can deliver on Rodgers' prediction, it won't be the last game at Lambeau this season. And that would be the best stocking stuffer of them all.
OK, I know you're dying to know: Jackson's team won its championship game to capture the Chanhassen tournament title. Also, I'll be at Paul Allen's Friday Football Feast this Friday at Buffalo Wild Wings in Coon Rapids. This time it will be from 9:15 to 9:55. Usually we do it in the 11:00 hour, but I'm filling in for The Common Man from noon to three on KFAN on Friday and have to get back to the station. Tune in, it will be a glorified three hour edition of "Packer Preview"